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5 tips for eating healthy on a budget | Health and Wellness Services – CU Boulder Today

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Woman holding a list and shopping basket at the produce section of a grocery store.

If you want to eat healthy, you have to increase your budget… right? Wrong. In fact, there are a number of tools and tricks to help you stay on track. Here are our top 5 tips to help you stay on budget and eat healthier this year.


#1 Make a plan (and stick to it)

Having a plan in place before you go to the store can help you stay organized, save money and choose healthier options. It’s also a great way to cut back on food waste because you’ll only be buying the items you need.

To get started, create a menu for the week that includes all of your meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks). If you’re new to meal planning, it’s helpful to keep your breakfast and lunch options fairly consistent from day-to-day until you get more comfortable.

After you’ve planned out your meals for the week, start to identify which ingredients you already have on hand and which ones you’ll need to pick up from the store. Make a commitment to stick to your list when you’re at the store: avoid buying items just because they’re on sale or because they look tempting at the time. This will help ensure that you stick to your meal plan and your budget.


#2 Check for coupons or discounts

Most major stores offer printable and digital coupons. Some stores, like King Soopers or Target, will even personalize coupons based on what you most frequently purchase. Once you’ve made your list, check online to see if there are any coupons that align with your meal plan. Remember to stick to your list and not buy products based on the coupon. Alternatively, you can adjust your meal plan based on items that are deeply discounted that week.


#3 BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag)

According to the City of Boulder, residents use approximately 342 plastic bags per person per year at grocery stores. Since Boulder charges a 10 cent bag fee, you could potentially save yourself an average of $34.20 per year just by bringing your own reusable bag to the store.

Still not convinced? According to the New York Times, the average length of a dissertation program is 8.2 years. That means you’ll save about $280 during your program by bringing your own bag to the store – a nice graduation present to yourself when you finish.


#4 Swap items to save

There are a number of simple swaps that you can make at the store to help you save a few bucks. Here are a few examples to think about the next time you’re shopping:

  • Buy whole foods: Some foods are cheaper in less processed forms. For example, cheese blocks tend to be cheaper than shredded cheese.
  • Buy generic: Most stores carry generic brands for a variety of products. If you’re worried about quality differences, compare the ingredient list of the generic product to the one you normally buy to see how they compare.
  • Buy produce in season: Local, in-season produce tends to be cheaper. You may also consider buying produce by the bag (based on your needs), as this can save you even more.
  • Buy frozen: When fresh produce isn’t in season, opt for frozen varieties. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often cheaper and have great nutritional value, since they are picked and packaged at their peak quality.
  • Buy in bulk: Most major grocers carry common pantry goods at a lower price in their bulk foods section, including rice, beans and oatmeal, among others.

#5 Make it yourself

Preparing most of your meals at home can save you money. It’s also a great way to ensure you have healthy options on hand. If you want to save money and eat healthier, try to limit the number of times you eat out each week. Opt to make the majority of your dinners at home and pack your lunch. If you enjoy eating out with friends or colleagues, consider hosting a potluck instead. Need ideas? Check out these cheap and easy meal recipes or these dietitian-approved breakfast options.

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